Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Doctrinal Statement - Would you sign?

I'd like your thoughts on a doctrinal statement that I may have to face in the future. I will, of course, be addressing this with my faithful Pastor.
  1. One God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. The deity of Jesus Christ, in whose person are united the divine and human natures so that He is truly both God and man; His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, vicarious and atoning death; His bodily resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory.
  3. The present ministry of the Holy Spirit convincing sinners of sin and regenerating, sanctifying, guiding, and empowering believers.
  4. The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, their essential unity, and their inviolable authority.
  5. The fall of man through the sin of our first parents; the death and hopelessness of man apart from the work of redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.
  6. Reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by repentance for sin and receiving of forgiveness and new life by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
  7. Sanctification of the reconciled believer through the operation of the Holy Spirit by the complete dedication of believers to God and the receiving by faith of cleansing from enmity against God; by walking in daily obedience as true and fervent disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and growing more like Him in maturity of character; and by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and receiving His empowerment for continuous victory over sin and for service unto God.
  8. Our obligation to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples of all men everywhere.
  9. The spiritual unity of all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  10. The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the final judgment of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, resulting in the eternal fellowship of the righteous with God, and the eternal separation of the wicked from God.

I’m cool with 1 through 5, though I may have missed something.

Theology seems to live in the prepositions. I would change number 6 from “reconciliation with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by repentance for sin...” to “reconciliation with God by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ by means of repentance of sin...” I’m also not sure about the “and” clause does it connect parallel thoughts? Do I divide the first part of the thought after the word “through” or after the word “by” (“Through this and this” or “by this and this.”)

Number 7 suffers from prepositional confusion too. “ the complete dedication of believers to God...” This one is worse however, in that it keeps adding “by” phrases. The operation of the Holy Spirit is first, but then we have “by...dedication of believers to God” “by walking in daily obedience.” etc.

“By” has lots of definitions, such as “through the action of” as in “My web page is designed by me” or “with the use or help of” as in “we came by the back road” or “through the agency or action of” as in “he was killed by a bullet.” To say that sanctification is through the agency of the complete dedication of believers to God is right out.

The phrase, “growing more like Him in maturity of character” bothers me a bit. If it means that I will fear and love God more and more, then I agree. If it means that I will sin less and less and eventually be morally like Christ, I disagree.

Number 8 is okay. I don’t think that it is every Christian’s vocation to publicly preach, but I do think it is every Christian’s calling to be ready in and out of season to give the reasons for his or her hope.

Number 9 is a bit vague for my tastes. What does the “spiritual unity of all believers” mean? Is this an ecumenical gesture or does it refer to the Church Triumphant and the fact that we are one body under one head, Jesus Christ? If it means that I accept all who claim to be “Christians” as true heirs with Christ, then no.

Number 10 is good. I would probably change the word “soul” to “person” but clearly they aren’t espousing the immortality of disembodied souls, as the next phrase proclaims the resurrection of the body.

Am I being too nit-picky? Are there not turns of phrase in the Book of Concord that could be overanalyzed? I wonder if this organization would accept a copy of the Lutheran Symbols with my signature on the back page? Please help me refine my thinking on this document.


Blogger Devona said...

Can you go over it with a permanent mareker and change your bys and throughs to suit yourself? :-P

I think that it's a LOT better than some other SoFs that I've seen people need to sign.

And I think that the "Unity" issue could easily be defined as the Invisible Church, but that's just how I took it.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Generally, I stay away from ones that have been written by somebody or by a few people or a group, even confessional groups. They may be very solid, but lack the authority and always have potential flaws, as you are already aware.

There isn't one thing in there that isn't in the Athanasian Creed, and I already subscribe to that with much more clearness of conscience. Can you give them a copy of that and say "this is what I believe?"

3:48 PM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

A statement of faith like this is not a baptismal statement. It is made for an institution's purposes.

I'm not sure exactly what it means as a statement. It doesn't even begin with the words "I believe".

Maybe what it means is that you are saying you accept that this is the institution's statement and that you recognize that if you teach outside of it, you can be canned.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Theophilia said...

Having received theological training from the same organization as the current president's, it is interesting that I had the same reservations about #7. I agree that #7 needs a major overhaul. The niceties of prepositions slipped by me but I also agree with his concerns.

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Theophilia said...

Err... make that president of the organization in question (not of the USA!). (laughing at self)

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Theophilia said...

Okay -- never mind. Wrong organization. (feeling silly)

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Herr Doktor said...

The commentator is not being "picky." The psycho-spiritual slant of the "organization's" credo is intermittently bent.

Number 8, in my opinion, is not okay. It reflects a corrupted understanding of Mt 28, and does violence to the orthodox Lutheran perception of mission, in consequence. Number 8 refers to an "obligation" to spread the Good News. Piffle; this is as onerous an approach to living in God's sunshine, as the work-righteousness of the Islamic "Five Pillars." Welcome to the "Christian Jihad." Or perhaps, making reference to some noteworthy Lutheran circles, the trade-marked "Ablaze!" panic disorder. We have the joyous privilege to participate in the love of spreading the Word, through the means of our verbal testimony and in the course of our nonverbal behavior, as we go about our God-blessed daily vocations. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ fulfills the Law, for us. He makes no new ones, for His brothers.

Number 7 is one of the more prominent in word count, and establishes the verity of the opinion that the heterodoxies of today arise from confusion over the Third Article of the Nicene Creed ... the one dealing with the Holy Spirit, and Christ's Bride. Athanasius had his Christological battles, with the Arians; we have our battles, now, with the Evangelical non-denoms as to Pneumatological workings. Number 7 does not describe any of the benefits achieved through Baptism, by which we obtain forgiveness of sins, and to which we Lutherans say we remember daily, as the Old Adam gets doused with similar frequency. That is our Spirit breathed and gifted psychology, and dear God, let the Lutherans not forget it or minimize it.

Obviously, the "organization's" founders have a different bead on the Sacramental graces, than we do. Their perspective of Christ's kingdom will be with a different lens, therefore. It will be comparatively impoverished. If this is arrogance, it is a Lutheran one, and I trust God will forgive.

Speaking of lenses, I will let the focused attention paid to the correctness of prepositions, to others of a more academic bent. I will conclude by simply noting with wonder, whether the "continuous victory over sin" (touted by Number 7) squares with the true reality-testing furnished by "simul iustitia et peccator."

-- Michael L. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

FYI, I've linked to this post, talking about the importance of prepositions.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Kletos Sumboulos said...

Dr. Anderson,
I appreciate your insights and comments. I'm not able to find much about you online, but have noticed your interest in my blog. Are you a psychiatrist or otherwise interested in psychology? I am longing after other Lutheran scientists to read and possibly consult with in the future...
Email me at Kletossumboulos [at] gmail [dot] com if you would.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Seth said...

Not being a scholar, but simply a Christian layperson, I'll give my 2 cents.

I'd disagree with you about #7, Kletos. I would say that sanctification WOULD mean you would sin less and less. Was does it mean to be more like Christ if we aren't sinning less and less? You said you would agree that it means you would fear and love God more. The direct result of fearing him and his awesome power and the work of Christ on the cross should and will lead us to sin less and less. And how can we love him if we don't sin less and less. This is the essence of Repentance. And also of Mortification.

My simple thoughts.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Shrewinator said...

I share your concern over prepositions in #6. I would like to see "reconciliation with God by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ through repentance of sin" just switch them.

True that #7 is a mess - the dative (by) is overused and its meaning is questionable. maybe "through the complete dedication of...", though I dislike the addition of the word complete. This seems to push the 'by means of' reading. The rest of it is just terribly writen with dative phrases and semicolons. As an earlier poster stated, this is a response to modern pneumatological debates, unfortunately it doesn't help much!

8 is a question of the exegesis of the great comission...I am not sure on that one.

#9 seems to be a vague reference to the Church (universal) as the body of Christ - a unity under his headship. Sounds fine in this respect.

you seem ok with #3, I would like to see "convincing sinners of sin and regenerating, as well as sanctifying, guiding and empowering believers." - just a fine point in who is being regenerated. (believers or sinners)
-you know why this matters to me :)

I think it is important to find out if they are asking you to believe this, or to accept it as the statement of the governing institution.

8:34 PM  

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